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With most parts of Chennai witnessing no inundation during the first spell of north-east monsoon rains, the opposition AIADMK, even while pointing to the waterlogging in some parts of North Chennai, took credit for the ongoing storm water drain works and shifted the focus to ‘rain relief politics’.
The advent of north-east monsoon in Tamil Nadu brings not only heavy rains but also a political fight over flooding especially in in low lying areas and arterial roads, besides a stiff contest among the parties in providing relief work. Usually, the first round goes to the opposition as the ruling party used to be at the receiving end of criticism over flooding and waterlogging. Soon, the ruling parties would try to douse public anger in the second round by generously providing cash and essential commodities as relief to the affected people.
This time, the usual political drama after the first heavy spell of rains was missing since waterlogging was not an issue in most of parts of South and Central Chennai due to the storm water drain works carried out by the ruling DMK government over the last 18 months. The city received 10 to 13 cm of rain on November 1, causing inundation at 50 places compared to 167 places last year and this too was quickly drained by the officials under the supervision of senior ministers.
For the opposition parties, which were watching Chief Minister M K Stalin’s Kolathur constituency on the first day, it was a major disappointment as the arterial roads which used to be flooded were clear and motorable. However, they were able to spot some of the areas which were under sheets of water on the second day, prompting Municipal Administration minister K N Nehru to accept that some parts of the Chief Minister’s constituency were waterlogged.
Photo journalists working in the opposition media who went to the usual spots where they could easily shoot pictures of waterlogging had a tough time finding places of water inundation. People in South and Central Chennai were happy and even those living in some parts of North Chennai which saw inundation appreciated the government saying that it used to be worse than this year and hoped that even this problem would be solved before the next rainy season.
Tambaram, Perungalathur, Mudichur, Mannivakkam, Manimangalam and Varadharajapuram areas near the Adyar river which used to be flooded did not face such a problem this time, since the encroachments blocking the flow of water to the river had been removed. The river bed itself had been widened with demolition of encroachments, and the banks were raised and strengthened.
With no scenes of major flooding, Principal Opposition Leader Edappadi K Palaniswami had to wait for three days to issue his first statement that too after Chief Minister M K Stalin accused the former AIADMK government of not doing anything for ten years. The usual script attacking the government for failure to prevent floods and inundation changed as Palaniswami claimed credit for the storm water drain works in the capital. “The works were planned and commenced by the AIADMK government and the DMK regime is taking the credit for completing the project”, he lamented.
With no scenes of major flooding, Edappadi K Palaniswami had to wait for three days to issue his first statement that too after M K Stalin accused the former AIADMK government of not doing anything for ten years
The former Chief Minister went back to the year 1996 when Stalin was the mayor and alleged that the latter did not do anything to beautify the city. “If Stalin had built the storm water drains when he was the Mayor and Local Administration Minister, the AIADMK government would not have been burdened with such works during its tenure. It was the AIADMK government which completed most of the drain works. The stoppage of works after the Stalin government took over resulted in flooding and waterlogging last year, he accused. “The continuous desilting works in Adyar and Cooum ensured that there was no flooding in the nearby areas this year. Flooding of subways was avoided since the AIADMK government had installed pump sets to drain the water”, he said.
Former Minister D Jayakumar also sought to shift the focus to relief works and accused the State government of not providing food and shelter to the people. After distributing chicken biriyani to the people at one of the affected area in North Chennai, he said the DMK government had not begun relief works. AIADMK functionaries have already started distributing food to the people at several places in the city. DMK functionaries who used to be active in flood relief works are not in picture at the moment, possibly due to the fact that there was not much waterlogging in the city.
During the days of Congress rule, the government used to provide shelter for the affected people in schools and government buildings where simple food like wheat porridge and upma were provided to them. When Nagapattinam district was ravaged by floods in 1977, MG Ramachandran who was the Chief Minister endeared himself to the people of the delta districts by providing 50 kilogram rice and Rs. 100 cash to the affected families. The scheme was implemented in parts of Chennai which was affected by floods.
It was former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa who increased the cash compensation for people living in flood-hit parts of Chennai to Rs. 5,000 and gave Rs. 10,000 to hut dwellers in 2015. Former Chief Minister Palaniswami provided cash to the affected people and his relief package helped him to garner people’s support in the 2021 Assembly elections. The latest relief materials distributed last year included chicken biriyani, variety rice packets, bread packets, milk, bed sheets and commodities like dhal and cooking oil.
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